The government’s decision to cut gas supplies to Sindh industries and divert those to the Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) for power generation seems to be a failure as the KESC on Saturday said daily gas supplies have been reduced to half of normal.
The KESC said that limited gas supplies have affected electricity generation while the Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) on its part insisted that the power utility was informed earlier about the reduced fuel supplies due to maintenance work at Qadirpur gas field. “The SSGC supplies up to 200 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) of gas to the KESC.
Currently, we are getting only around 100 mmcfd which is a big hurdle in the way of electricity generation,” Aamir Abbasi, spokesman for the KESC, told The Express Tribune. The SSGC management in a meeting with representatives of compressed natural gas associations and five industrial zones of Karachi had finalised a one-day gas stoppage plan on April 26. The move was part of the federal government’s decisions at an energy summit in mid-April for conserving electricity throughout Pakistan.
The objective was to save 10 mmcfd of gas by closing CNG stations on Friday every week and 40 mmcfd by suspending gas supply to industries for one day in a week on alternate basis. Later, the plan was challenged in the Sindh High Court by some industries and the case is still in court. When contacted, SSGC officials said prior to curtailment of gas supply the KESC was informed about the maintenance work at Qadirpur gas field. “It is an annual maintenance programme of the SSGC and supplies will get normal in three to four days,” an official said.
“The KESC is trying to depend more on gas instead of furnace oil which is where the root problem lies. The KESC is basically trying to win sympathy instead of generating power with furnace oil,” he said. However, the KESC’s spokesman said the SSGC officials “should explain why gas supply has been reduced even after application of conservation measures.” “The KESC has very limited resources to generate electricity. We are using all available resources including gas and furnace oil.
Electricity generation through furnace oil is three times costlier,” he explained. He said a lot of work has gone into pending due to a KESC workers strike this week, causing problems for the power utility. “This is not for the first time that the KESC and the SSGC play the blame game by accusing each other.” Abbasi further explained that 51 per cent of the KESC feeders were exempt from power outages. Most of these feeders supply electricity to industries, hospitals and some other important sectors of the city.
He said the KESC supplies electricity to the industries for 24 hours a day through exclusive means - a good source of revenue for the KESC as industries regularly pay their dues. Another reason is the high tariff rate for industries. The industries, which use gas generators, were irked by the SSGC’s decision of gas outages. “Industries have made massive investments in gasfired power plants. Gas outages even for a day in a week are hurting industries,” said a former chairman of the Federal B Area Association of Trade and Industry (FBATI).
Published in the Express Tribune, May 16th, 2010.